Wayne County teens take part in New York Catholic Youth Day - Catholic Courier
Two teens stand with a man.

Ethan Smith and Aidan Colvin, youths from St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Ontario, pose with Auxiliary Bishop Joseph A. Espaillat of the Archdiocese of New York during the New York Catholic Youth Day April 27 in Yonkers. (Photo courtesy of Corey Ginett)

Wayne County teens take part in New York Catholic Youth Day

On April 27, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Espaillat of the Archdiocese of New York donned a baby-blue hoodie, matching sneakers and a baseball cap emblazoned with the word “Pray.” Grabbing a microphone, he performed a hip-hop song praising God, rapping on stage alongside Sister Elfie Del Rosario, FMA — clad in full white habit — and Catholic speaker and performer Joe Melendrez.

“That is not something that we’re going to see every day,” remarked Kate Smith, a member of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, which is part of the Catholic Parishes of Western Wayne County.

Smith viewed the performance while helping to chaperone the group of five teens that Youth Minister Corey Ginett brought to New York Catholic Youth Day April 27 in Yonkers. The group’s agenda for the one-day trip included Mass with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York, a breakout session with Melendrez, participation in a service project and eucharistic adoration with Bishop Espaillat.

“Adoration with Bishop Joe was a big draw. My kids loved it. He is so passionate about it that the kids are just drawn into it,” Ginett said.

Annual event provides opportunity for New York’s Catholic youths to encounter Christ

Bishop Espaillat actually started New York Catholic Youth Day 11 years ago, before he was ordained a bishop and while he was the archdiocesan director of youth ministry, according to Christina Davis, who currently serves in that role.

“At the time, his vision was … to have an encounter event for young people throughout the state and those who are nearby,” Davis said.

Bishop Espaillat wanted an event that would help as many young people as possible to encounter Christ and see that the young Catholic Church is alive and well, she said. The event spans two days, but one day features worship, fellowship and service activities for high-schoolers while a separate day offers similar opportunities for middle-schoolers.

This year marked the first time the archdiocese made an intentional outreach to other dioceses in New York and surrounding states, Davis said, noting that teens traveled to the event from the dioceses of Rochester and Albany as well as Scranton, Pa., and Newark, N.J.

“Welcoming other dioceses to something that we are already doing is a simple way for us to be good neighbors, especially when hosting an event of this magnitude would be a challenge,” she said. “It also becomes a much more affordable option compared to other conferences, and doable for young people and leaders who may not be able to attend a multi-day event.”

New York Catholic Youth Day 2025 will be April 26 for high-school students and April 27 for for middle-school students, she added.

Youth minister: Event was like ‘mini-NCYC’, but without challenges of traveling to multi-day event

Ginett is no stranger to bringing youth groups to multi-day events, as her pilgrimage to Indianapolis last November with a group of teens marked her 10th time at the National Catholic Youth Conference. However, her interest was piqued when she learned that an event that appeared to be like a “mini-NCYC” would be held in her own state, she said.

“I knew it was doable, and I was willing to give it a try if anybody wanted to do it,” she said.

Ginett recruited Brian Smith — Kate Smith’s husband and the father of two youth-group members — to drive the parish’s 15-passenger van to Yonkers. The group left St. Maximilian Kolbe at 2:30 a.m. on April 27 and arrived at St. Joseph’s Seminary — the site of New York Catholic Youth Day — by 8:30 a.m., Ginett said. They drove home after the event was over and returned to the parish at 1 a.m. on April 28.

While at St. Joseph’s Seminary, the Wayne County teens joined more than 2,000 other teens for many of the events, including Mass with Cardinal Dolan and adoration with Bishop Espaillat. They filled bags with rice for Rise Against Hunger, which will distribute the bags to people in need of food in impoverished communities or those dealing with sudden disasters.

Several of the teens from St. Maximilian Kolbe received the sacrament of reconciliation, and they all agreed that eucharistic adoration was a highlight of their experience, Ginett said.

Teens enjoyed slowing down to be with Jesus and meeting other Catholic youths

Teens from other dioceses also considered eucharistic adoration to be a highlight, according to feedback Davis received.

“I think our world is so busy for them, and there are so many messages that are being thrown at them,” she said. “Adoration is the complete opposite of that. It allows them to slow down and for them to focus and be in the real presence of Jesus.”

Another highlight was mingling with so many other Catholic teens, according to St. Maximilian Kolbe parishioner Ethan Smith, 15.

“Experiences like this in Yonkers and at NCYC kind of just show a different demographic,” he said. “When I go to church (at home), I feel like we’re some of the youngest people there, but then being able to go to stuff like this shows that there are a lot of other Catholic youth too.”

Tags: NY Catholics, Wayne County News
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